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Find more posts at Live your Poem.

 

Our Spiritual Journey first Thursday posts are centered around gratitude this month. When I think of what I am most grateful for this week, I think of the many voices in my life.

Sunday:  The voices of the choir up in the loft with me.  I am the only alto, but that’s OK.  I love to hear the harmony of my voice alongside the others around me.  I carry the anthem in my head all week long.  Today I can hear the echo of “even thine altars…O Lord, my king and my God.  Blessed are they that dwell in thy house.”

Monday-Friday: The voices of my students ring in my ear.  This week one group is writing mood stories.  A few students are collaborating together.  They hunch over the paper and computer and speak in excited voices about what happens next.  Another group is working on podcasts, so they have written scripts and are practicing and recording and re-recording.  Voices over voices, played and replayed.

Voxer voices:  I have a few friends I keep in touch with using the Voxer app.  I look forward to hearing their messages on my morning walks.  One of these friends is reading aloud a book.  She’s actually reading it for another friend, but she forwards them to me, so I can enjoy the book as well.  I love being read to.  Her soothing, friendly voice makes the experience of listening like a meditation.

As I write, my husband calls and offers to meet at our favorite restaurant.  There, we will catch up on the news of day and just be with each other.  I remember one of the first things that attracted me to him was his voice.  I’ll never tire of hearing it.

November is thanku season, a time for writing thank you haiku.

 

Slice of Kid Voices

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

In September I received an invitation from Paul Allison of the New York Writing Project to participate in a discussion about a new website for publishing student work.  In 2010, we worked together to create a platform around the Gulf oil spill called “Voices on the Gulf.”  From this experience, Paul created Youth Voices.  My students participated for a little while, but eventually the content became inappropriate for my young students.  I moved away from using this site because it did not meet the needs of my students as younger voices.

When Paul contacted me that he was ready to open a new site for elementary students, I was thrilled.  An authentic audience is extremely valuable in teaching writing.  Many of my students are isolated as one of few gifted students in their class.  When they write, they want people to read it.  They crave a wider audience.

Kidvoices.live is now live! Some of my students have begun posting their creative poetry there.  The platform is similar to blogging at Kidblogs, but different enough to serve a slightly more sophisticated purpose.

Kidvoices.live is open to other elementary classrooms as well.  If you want to join and get your students involved, you can.  You have to provide a unique email for each student.  You can use a gmail + account or a parent’s email address.  Once they sign up, each student will have a user name and password for future log-ins.  I recommend sending home a parent permission letter.  Paul plans to post it on the site, but you can also contact me for a copy.

Last week we read a story from Scholastic’s Scope magazine that was very close to us. The Great Flood of 2016 occurred in our area as well as in the setting of the article, Baton Rouge.  We then read from Here We Go about helpers and volunteering. (PowerPack #8 on page 65)   My students wrote response poems about the flood, and the larger topics of fear and hope.

When students have the opportunity to share writing online, they grow as writers, as digital citizens, and as people navigating this world.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

On Saturday night, storms ravaged through our area.  I was up for at least an hour comforting my dog Charlie who is afraid of thunderstorms.  I admit, though, I wasn’t sleeping anyway.  Word has it we had some tornado activity.  One school had a small electric fire that caused some smoke damage in their library.

When we arrived at school Monday morning, the internet was out.  For my first group, it was back to the basics of paper and pencil writing.  We read together at school two. But at school #3, where I am teaching 4th grade science, I had planned a video about roller coasters to show force and motion.  When the internet was still not up and running, I had to think creatively.  I grabbed some Jenga blocks and Dominoes.

We reviewed the idea of force and motion.  I sent them off to work on a chain reaction while I worked with a second grader on writing a story.  The two 4th graders were speaking in whispers and didn’t want me to see what they were building.  I promised not to look.  When they were ready, I found that they had been creative themselves and built the blocks in the shape of my name.  Of course, I had to smile and take a video.

This experience made me realize how dependent I have become on technology.  I expect it to work.  I plan for it to work.  I think I should plan for at least one day a week that we unplug and get back to the basics of writing with pencils, reading with each other, and playing with blocks.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

I have to thank NCTE for the National Day on Writing as well as all the many posts on #WhyIWrite and my many teacher-writer friends who inspire me every day to make my class a safe place for writers to bloom.

Michelle Haseltine told me she was writing quotes on pencils to give to her students as inspired by Malala’s Magic Pencil. (Her post is here.)  So early Friday morning, I grabbed some fresh pencils and Googled writing quotes.  Each student received a pencil with a quote.  This was such a simple, yet positive way to garner enthusiasm for a special writing day.

Betsy Hubbard posted last minute ideas on the Two Writing Teachers blog early yesterday.  I grabbed the idea of chalkabration!  Years ago, Betsy led a monthly roundup of Chalkabration posts.  The basic idea is writing poetry with sidewalk chalk.  My students were so excited to be able to go outside and chalk their poems.  I made an Animoto video to share.

Here are some of the wonderful fall themed poems my students and I created.

–Margaret Simon Fall Haiku

Fall The holy winter is waiting. Why keep it away when you could bring it in. Winter comes. –Trace, 5th grade

Fall Mysterious Admiring Happening Turning Winter Every Night Fall –Austin, 6th grade

Autumn Summer breeze turned cold. Bright sun into dim moon. Emerald leaves turn amber. Blue skies now dark. –Madison, 4th grade

Poetry Friday posts are with Leigh Anne at A Day in the Life

Last week my students and I studied the poem “A Letter in October” by Ted Kooser.  In response, some of us wrote golden shovel poems.  A golden shovel is a poem that uses the line of another poem stretched out down the right hand margin.  The writer then fills in words to create a whole new poem.  This method of writing a poem forces the writer to use enjambment in an interesting way.  Today I am sharing two student responses as well as my own.

 

I lay still in my bed in the moonlit night

A sweet blowing breeze passes in

And out  filling my room with its

soft and warm thick

Scent of snow and hushed winter

Whispers wrapping me in a chilly jacket.

–Erin, 6th grade

 

 

 

 You are sitting. Watching
                          while birds fly around the
trees. The sun going down, light
fading. You hear kids walk
down the street. The sun is down,
everybody collecting the candy the
people are giving out. You look at the hill.
You see something, a pumpkin. You carve it.

–Andrew, 5th grade

Every day I drive by a mighty oak tucked between the frontage road and the highway, Mr. Al.  In South Louisiana, the oldest oaks are named and cataloged and cared for.  Mr. Al has had an interesting journey as he was transplanted by the state highway department about 3 years ago.  He is thriving in his new home.

Mr. Al in October.

 

An oak tree spreads its mighty wings then
beckons us to see
another way the
world can be. Light
dances with the leaves, a casual step,
strong and easy, bouncing out
the noisy beats upon.
-Margaret Simon

A Slice of Gumbo

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

 

This past weekend was the 28th annual World Championship Gumbo Cookoff in New Iberia.  Every year during the second weekend of October, Main Street is shut down and groups gather to cook their best gumbo for hundreds or thousands of hungry tasters.

Seventeen years ago when our three girls were young, the family decided to have a booth.  Jeff’s siblings and their families came to town, and together we cooked and served the first ever Simon Family Gumbo.  My daughters have been nostalgic about that event and have talked about having another Simon Family Gumbo booth.  So this was the year.

Jeff and our oldest daughter Maggie were in charge.  For months, Jeff has worked weekends on building a facade of our house, the Big White Castle.  Son-in-law Grant designed a logo using our family Christmas frog as a model and adding a chef’s hat and a superman cape. (The theme for this year’s event was super heroes.)

Katherine and Jeff show the back of our family t-shirts after they ran the 5K Roux Run on Saturday.  Each won second place in their division.  The “medal” was a mini wooden gumbo spoon.

The Simon family castle!

When the weekend arrived, Jeff headed to Cosco for roasted chickens, a dozen of them.  Maggie and Grant arrived with sausage to cook in the cast iron pot to fully season it.  The day Saturday was spent chopping loads of onions, celery, and bell pepper.  What joy to have all hands chopping while everyone visited together!  Jeff and Grant worked on the stock outside on the burner.  I wish I could have captured the smell along with the photos.

 

Saturday night was early to bed because the alarms went off at 4:45 AM on Sunday.  The cooking crew had to get downtown to set up and start the roux.  At 6 AM, the gumbo police announced, “Start your burners,” and the town began to smell of flour and oil slowly cooking into 75+ gravies. If you ask anyone who knows anything about cooking a gumbo, they will tell you the secret is in the roux.  For our team it was touch and go and tag-teaming for about an hour and a half before the roux was the just-right color of chocolate to satisfy head chef, Maggie.

Once the roux was done, it was added to the stock along with vegetables, sausage, and chicken. The stew cooked for a few more hours before a sample was sent to the judges.  Then people arrived with tickets in hand to try out as many samples as their stomachs would hold.  Unfortunately, the crowd was lighter than in previous years due to the extreme heat.  No one really craves gumbo when the temperature climbs over 90 degrees.  The heat really wore us all down, but we powered through.

I celebrate my amazing family.  My girls and their significant others get along so well with each other.  At the end of the weekend, Jeff said, “I think they could do anything.”  This was a huge undertaking, and I was proud of our tasty gumbo even though we didn’t place in the competition.  In our hearts, we knew Simon Family Gumbo was the best!

 

 

 

Poetry Friday posts are with Irene at Live Your Poem

Last week, my friend, poet, blogger, writing partner Linda Mitchell posted her found haiku along with the inspirational poem Letter in October by Ted Kooser.  See her post here.  I took it all to create a lesson for my students.  After study of and talk about Ted Kooser’s poem, I shared Linda’s haiku and talked about how these haiku could stand separate from the original poem.  I challenged my students to try finding haiku.

Madison created this lovely poem, but first she gave the form a name “re-ku” as in recycled haiku.

A late light dawning
finding a world of darkness.
Silhouettes of the

lost leaves, soaring
on a draft. They have lost
their way. I watch the

darkness, sipping tea.
The night has wrapped the light, sowing
reflections ‘cross
my window. Watch.

Madison, 4th grade

Free image

I’m fascinated by the rhythm and repetition that Noah used to create his artistic expression of A Letter in December.

The icy water
a letter in December
Sowing reflections

The icy writing
a letter in December
in the window pane

The icy fingers
a letter in December
wrapped around the hearth

The icy shingles
a letter in December
frozen in its place.

–Noah, 6th grade